I'm happy to have tonight off. Forgoing NYE partyin' to 'sit for the nephew and niece instead. Much less anxiety, nah mean?
I've got a few friends with b-days tonight, tho'. And I know some of y'all will go hard. So, after the clock strikes 12, the ball drops and you've heard "Party Rock Ig'nance" for the umpteenth time, treat your hips to some after-hours jams:
2010 was colorful. I experimented with new jobs, went hard on the freelance DJ'g and writing, and, oh, got hitched. Last year's lists reflect both the kaleidoscopic joy of the time, as well as the escape music provided.
2011 had its share of struggles, but the year was more stable and consistent. The list reflects that: the music is often calm, the readings patiently explore process, and the visuals reflect more than strike. As usual for me, there are plenty of nods to the past. PJ Harvey's circular connection between wars present and past is quite literal. However, I was more affected by Louis CK or Todd Hanson's raw reflections. Or even Juicy J's admission, "You say no to drugs / Juicy J can't." My 30s are making a lot more sense than my 20s. And 40s doesn't seem as frightening so much as a part of the package (at least one to be appreciative of reaching). We constantly work towards change while learning to accept our core characteristics, no matter the beauty or ugliness.
Cheers to your new year. Looking forward to chopping it up with you again in '12.
Louis CK - Hilarious
Bill Callahan - Apocalypse WTF w/ Todd Hanson
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
Black Keys - El Camino
Waka Flocka Flame - Duflocka Rant (10 Toes Down)
The Fruits - Fruits! Fruits! Fruits!
Albums I Need to Catch Up On
Bjork - Biophilia via an iPad
Beach Boys - Smile Sessions box set
Eagerly awaiting this Fugazi show
New Pornographers "Moves"
Tom Scharpling x Ted Leo x Todd Barry x John Oliver x Hannibal Burress x Kevin Corrigan! Best video ever.
Guy singing "Niggas in Paris" on NYC subway
New Yorkers may sit on top of the East, but Phillians and Bmorians have enough soul to openly dance in the streets. So credit this ecstatic New Yorker for taking his bedroom dance to the city's first stage, the subway. Here's proof that the best videos in life often come from life itself.
きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ (Kyari Pamyu Pamyu) "PONPONPON"
...and here's an example of one of the best videos coming from so far outside of life as we know it.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Nonesuch-ification of African-American youth culture.
Young L "Respect My Dick"
This is one of those Chris Rock "Remember when it wasn't so hard to defend rap?" moments where all the talk of rap not being the only mass media culture with a history of violence against women and the history of African oral traditions and technical innovations go to pot. This is a pretty inexcusable song from a generally musically interesting guy. The video kind of helps as it starts with a seemingly ironic dream bubble sequence. But using a torture scenario, whether you're Joe Kanye or Joe Who?, is in all cases wrong.
Jacuzzi Boys "Glazin'"
I'm not asking WWJD, I'm asking what would I like my child to do?
Jean Nipon "Cairo"
Chalk up this schlocky shocker to poor timing, but the over-the-top violence is additionally disturbing in light of being released on 1/9, a day after the Tucson shootings.
The Doogie Howser of cultural-political writing, but age ain't nothin' but a number, right? Rosenberg x Think Progress = What? Yglesias left? I know they write on completely different topics, but Rosenberg is always so insightful and to-the-fucking-point. This particular post was a slam-dunk.
Digging into Just Kids next. The best part? Fun stuff for both the critics and the people!
Arthur Rimbaud A Season in Hell
Didn't know anything about him 'til I read a New Yorker piece which made him sound like a gay, 19th-century Tupac. Not in the thug life way, but more in the I Just Don't Give A Fuck/contradictory way. Trying to prep myself to dig into the new translation of Illuminations, which came out this year.
More vintage reads, but really great stuff. I paid more attention to Wright this year -- totally accessible political writing -- and felt this was a great follow-up to Legacy of Ashes, which I read last year. I am looking for a copy to own, so I can re-read.
Only a handful of truly memorable films this year. Absolutely loved the 3-D in Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams. The depth of vision made me feel like an armchair spelunker. Wish I saw it more than once while it was in the theater. On the other hand, I saw Drivetwice. That felt indulgent, but the occasional pulp fiction is good fun. On the other hand, the internet provided its share of highlights. Louie continues to be Hilarious. The Catholic school/guilt episode is still my favorite, but I especially loved the Joan and USO tour eps. Finally caught up on Breaking Bad. Just going to add my two hands to the critical applause. Tons of great vintage stuff on YouTube, particularly a touching BBC doc on Gene Vincent, circa the late '60s (especially touching after reading Michael Hall's feature on the last years of Bill Haley). An interview with Kurt Cobain (with Erica Ehm of Canada’s Much Music TV channel) a few months before his death was also fantastic. The clip is long-ish by internet standards (23 minutes), but brief for anyone who has conducted interviews. Much of the commentary around the interview is about how lucid Cobain sounds. Better still is how genuinely patient and engaging he is with the young interviewer (she doesn't recognize several of his references). It's a new window into a man who had a profound impact on my generation.
And The Trip was actual ROFL. And a surprisingly touching meditation on mid-life manias. I went back to Coogan's Alan Partridge stuff. Armando Iannucci is brilliant. I'd put him up with Gervais. I tried watching Saxondale, but found it a bit predictable. Maybe I should give it a second chance?
On a side note, I feel relegated to mention the ATCQ doc. It was fun to watch in a theater with heads bobbing and mouths mouthing lyrics. But I need to kick myself in the butt and get on that comprehensive Native Tongues history I've been dreaming of doing since I was a teenager. The doc does a commendable job of covering the stickier parts of the group's dynamic, but is hardly news to even the passing fan. A more interesting story would have been about the rise of the Native Tongues, but, I know, that's not just an ATCQ story.
Experiencing a Lil B conversion with my Berkeley homie
...followed by seeing one of James Levine's last concerts before his spate of cancellations (with the same homie)
When I take my half-Mexican niece to the park, no one bats an eye. When I take my white niece to the park, moms give me hard stares. I'm not making that up.
The Brasil-like baby-faced shortie at HalloWEEN
The photo pit of Nas and The Roots
Tokimonsta showing up Samiyam... and possibly Daedelus?
Reggie Watts and LCD Soundsystem covering "Stand On The Word"
A year-and-a-half ago Nate and I started our live model drawing sessions. Each step has been intuitive. Nate wanted to draw. I wanted to provide music. We both like to drink. For the first few months, we didn't even have a name. It was just a date, a place and some simpaticos. We eventually cobbled together a clunky name, +DRAWING+MODEL+MUSIC+BEER+, and began attracting "regulars," as well as a rotating cast of charming guest stars. One name-change, a Google Pay account and another calendar change later, LINER NOTES chugs along with -- dare I say it? -- a purpose.
We love providing a forum to fan a creative spark. Artists and newbies alike make our hearts race. When you come through that rickety door with a tight chest and leave with relaxed shoulders, we know we've done our jobs. Our pleasures are simple -- Nate loves to draw, I love to play music -- so we don't worry about whether we get our jollies. However, when you come out and undergo this process of coordinated looking and listening with us, we always look at each other like, "Did that *really* happen?" We're lucky to have you and thank you very much.
Late December calls for lookbackyness, so we turned to you. Who cares about D&N's favorite jams of 2011 -- what were our favorite jams? Many of you don't settle for sloppy Top 40, so there was no surprise that NPR/P4K faves PJ, Tune-Yards and Bon Iver made the cut. Y'all also keep the candle burning on film, as well, so Ryan Gosling's soundtrack had to make an appearance.
Sure, we're getting older, so our tastes continue looking back in nostalgia. Wu-Tang x Fugazi = more proof of Rock's thesis that you'll always love the soundtrack you lost your virginity to. Then again, young lion Kendrick Lamar is a stunning exception to the rule for running circles around fools with couplets like: "And this is riga-mortis /and it's gorgeous when you die"
I briefly met Shara Worden when she performed with Sarah Kirkland Snider at WNYC. Yes, she is wee. And, yes, her voice is stunning. My Brightest Diamond deserves its accolades, but none of this prepares you for her Blind Wilie Johnson chops. Her voice moans through moldy floorboards like gales of phantom winds. Of course, credit Colin Stetson for building the decrepit manor that attempts to house her words. Good thing I never went whole hog in the horn game: Colin is killin' it.
Louis C.K. set the tone for the evening's close, because, fuck, it's been the year of Louis/Louie. His album Hilarious is great. His DIY special is actually that: "special." Thank you for reminding us of what is actually awesome, and for painting the sound, fury and utter banality of parenthood.
Thank you all again for another lovely year of doodles, jams and late-night gabs. We'll be back on January 25. Be ready to continue kickin' it.
How often do you get to mention Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Freaky Tah in the same sentence?
Amy Winehouse's death this summer brought back to mind a morbid (and growing) "club" of rock stars who passed at the age of 27. Big air quotes around “club.” The concept of artists bonded by coincidence is as artificial as any rockist's jaw-topic can get. There is a vague suggestion of the rock cliche: to die before fading away. However, for anyone who has lost a loved one due to addiction, depression or even accident knows there is nothing glamorous about burning too quickly. Christopher Hitchens may not have regretted that second bottle, but even he had to take pause over his behavior in light of leaving his children early. How trite it is to toss off, "Morrison, Cobain, Winehouse. R.I.P."
However, for the purposes of drawing, the 27 Club makes for a strangely ideal Liner Notes session. It is filled with genius artists from a range of genres and times. So it's a chance for lesser-known comrades to share airspace with celebrities. For example, we have Brian Jones' crucial contributions to the Stones (according to Keef there would be no Stones without Jones). Of course, there is the godfather of all this rawk, blues legend Robert Johnson. Jacob Miller is crucial to Jamaican popular music, yet hardly a Marley or Tosh. D. Boon of the Minutemen epitomized DIY ethics that so many of us take for granted. Yes, I'm even pointing at you, Etsy contributor. So, the line between Jimi, Janis and Jim’s hits and Johnson, Jones and Boon becomes clearer.
Perhaps Big Star's Chris Bell encapsulates this idea. "Every night I tell myself, I am the cosmos," he sings on the title track of his I Am The Cosmos solo LP. Chris is the cosmos, as much as Linda Jones or Kurt Cobain. You need to hear all these artists, big and small, to form a more complete picture.
If rock 'n' roll were to be reduced to a hand gesture, it would be the middle finger. Rock is meant to be contrarian. Think of the great blues, rhythm & blues, rockabilly, rock, soul, funk, punk, disco, new wave, hip-hop, etc. songs and you hear pain, stories of the Not and, well, the blues. Rock's tendency is to grow up and fall back into the fold. But its puberty phase is always a beast of hormonal rage.
In this sense, LINER NOTES: Anti-Pop honors a long-standing tradition in rock: biting the hand. Why wonder whether a rocker's successful debut of angst, anger and agitation will be followed by more AAA? There's always something there to annoy a pop star -- even said success. Elvis had the foresight to freely admit this in "Radio, Radio." But a wedding and Joni Mitchell actually sparked this theme.
While putting together music for a wedding, a couple requested Mitchell's "You Turn Me On I'm A Radio." It's a peculiar song in that it's one of Mitchell's certifiable hits, but not one of her more characteristic. It is un-romantic, choppy and, well, "a little bit corny." I had never paid the song much attention, and a closer listen paid in funky dividends. Several stories behind the song point to Mitchell's frustration over being pressured to write a hit. The resulting image of being likened to a passive radio is so evocative of the time, it could actually be accused of being overly romantic. And for some reason reminds me of Radiohead's gruesome analogy of "Creep" feeling like an iron lung to the band. And so we are off to the races.
The Nevermind anniversary undoubtedly suggested I should revisit Nirvana's catalog, but the band is perhaps the preeminent tortured stars of my teen years. While that album has its share of pop snark, I still marvel at the bile in In Utero. Talk about golden handcuffs.
Fiona Apple came to mind, but another (tonally contrasting) wedding introduced me to Sara Bareilles, a pop singer-songwriter with a dull edge (i.e., she says "shit"). "Bottle It Up"'s swooping melody and incessant incantation of "Love" is mind-numbingly boring, but she front-ends the lobotomy with a hint of cynicism -- "There'll be girls across the nation that will eat this up." You're a fool to sing along to this. See how much better it is when the plan doesn't come together?
Admittedly, not every song here is certified pop. The Undertones are underground. They Might Be Giants' "Hey, Mr. DJ I Thought You Said We Had A Deal" dates to its Dial-A-Song period. And who really pressured LCD Soundsystem to write a hit? However, The Kinks' Lola Vs Powerman And The Moneygoround and De la Soul's Buhloone Mind State may lack placards, but they are seminal records outlining the pains of going pop.
The relative lack of cash success behind all these records perhaps make writing these sorts of songs less appealing. However, so long as success can be measured in rock, count on a rocker to call bullshit on it.
Leave it to my roundabout way of thinking to approach this theme from the back alley. One of the main conversation points of the OWS movement has been income inequality, which brought to mind Billy Paul's post-Watergate stress-ball "Let the Dollar Circulate," (which I came to via Spacek's 2005 single "Dollar"). Lush song with a tough message. And got me thinking, who else has stepped up like this? We live in an era of pop philanthropy, there should be countless other sterling examples, right?
The few who call out the evil of greed are an unsurprising yet motley bunch. There are self-made philosopher/musicians the Minutemen and boho-icon Tracy Chapman. There are also didactic democrats Fugazi and embittered folk hero Shawn Phillips. Though the styles and tone range greatly, the overall sentiment is coherent. Each song recognizes a systemic or societal flaw, then seethes or seeks to uplift.
To be honest, I wasn't too happy with parts of this set. Fugazi has better songs than "Greed." And "Share the Wealth" and "Talkin' Bout a Revolution" sound dated and overly earnest. And closing with "This Little Light of Mine" felt both predictable and tangential. Maybe the essence of this theme was flawed?
I got my answer a couple weekends ago at, of all places, a children's Hanukkah concert. I joined my in-laws and a few of the fam's kids for a show by ShirLaLa, a veteran children's musician. Her set of interactive, holiday-themed chunes was plenty lively and engaging. However, her closer was the aforementioned spiritual standard. Never mind this was a Hanukkah concert in a synagogue in front of an audience predominantly made up of congregants. "This Little Light of Mine" speaks to the core of joyful compassion, yet has enough flexibility to be adapted to any context or time. Feeling that spirit take root in a room of kids and parents was a much-needed reaffirmation.
Expect more of these themes in '12, with or without an occupation.
Happy Holidays! Did you enjoy celebrating a birthday in the company of a fine-smelling tree? Are you in the midst of honoring your peoples with some lit candles? Did you just start reaffirming your rootedness in African culture? Maybe you just want to stimulate the economy? Or simply enjoy your hard-earned federal holiday?
Nate and I are honoring the various winter holiday traditions by taking a little break from the LINER NOTES drawing sessions (yes, we switched up the name from the less rollsoffthetongue +DRAWING+MODEL+MUSIC+BEER+) until late January. That said, we have a backlog of playlists to post. And I'd be remiss as a music journo to not join the fracas of year-end list-making. So, all week I'll be posting past playlists (both here on the blahg and the F-book) and lists of various musical musings of mine from 2011. Here's the first, some notes from November 30's LINER NOTES: First Draft:
"First Draft," or demo night, was the culmination of a life-time of record-collecting mania. Even before I began buying my own shitty, post-new wave, alterna-jams, my older brother/first roommate introduced me to KROQ's Rodney on the Roq -- the closest thing to John Peel in early '80s Los Angeles. Sure, Rodney spun the radio staples that everyone knew. But he also broke countless bands by playing fresh, raw demos. Say whu -- a demo?
Songs and rock bands are like superheroes: they usually have an origin story. At least with comic books, origins or debuts may become rare, but were (in theory) once widely available. Spider-Man was introduced whole-hog in Amazing Fantasy #15. Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27, but readers quickly learned his roots in issue #33.
Finding the roots of a song or band can be trickier mostly due to the nature of a demo. The demo, at least pre-internet, was often a rough recording of a song, or at least an idea of what a song (and, by extension, the band could be). They were originally intended for record companies to determine whether to sign a band or to use a song. Demos could be consumed by those outside the ivory Capitol Records tower, but only the knowing few. After all, demos were not meant for public consumption.
Subsequently, demos could be mythologized, sought after and traded in semi-secret. And, like comic books, I quickly learned the class system of music nerds: those who just knew the basics; those who knew the basics and the better; and those who didn't fuck with the basics, and only fucked with/owned/collected the better.
My first job bread went to buying music, but I was never savvy or outgoing or moneybag-laden enough to land U2 demos or Black Flag bootlegs. Seemed I would always hear about the other side, but never actually know it.
It's brickinthehead-worthy to say something as pat as, "The Internet Changed Everything." But it did. Really, the last few years changed everything. Access to knowledge, more specifically streaming, listenable music, is ridiculously available. Once upon a time, I heard murmurs of Achtung Baby rehearsal tapes. Now, I can rewind Bono's admonition of Adam at any time.
Sure, not everyone jumps to hear music in draft form. Then again, considering how we carefully build up poses in a typical LINER NOTES session, such a meta theme seemed appropriate. We build up drawings from quick sketches of dynamic poses to full-fledged pictures of subtle poses, so why not simultaneously listen to some songs mid-construction?
The coincidental discovery of the early '80s R.E.M. demos practically begged us to pursue this theme. And what better way to open the session with the warped burst of "Radio Free Europe?" The Biggie and Nas demos, which have circulated for a while (by internet standards) continue to provide conversation fodder with dramatically earnest snapshots of pre-celeb DOA perennials. However, bring back a chestnut like the Artifacts' "Wrong Side of Da Tracks." It differs little lyrically from its final version, yet has a contrasting aggression simply due to the pause between "bomb like Vietnam" and "The same name Tame One..."
The commercial version of PJ Harvey's "Sheela-Na-Gig" stinks. Its air is musty, sour and thick. Yet its over-driven guitars, especially in light of its distant cousin Nirvana's "Rape Me" the following year, dates it to a certain vintage year of pungent rawk. It's too much. But in demo form, stripped of affect and strummed with a tight fist, the song slowly secretes lust and works its way around you. Ok, maybe not the best drawing song, but a slow-burner for the mid-length poses.
U2's Berlin sessions from the early '90s were legendary at the time. They marked the leaking of an album prior to the album's final completion. Hell, even little teenage me heard about it. Understandably, the band was upset, but the recordings are great. They're boring, long-winded, and seemingly endless. Bono bosses bassist Adam Clayton around, ordering him to play certain lines and where to stand. *Where to stand.* That is fucking annoying. And then you realize the work required to form these songs. For any aspiring musician or even the most passing music fan, this understanding doesn't spoil the magic of pop music -- it embellishes the greatness of each hard-earned part.
This was one of my favorite themes of the year. Any interest in revisiting in '12?
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